Convicted murder conspirator Kelly Renee Gissendaner was put to death by lethal injection at 12:21 a.m. Sept. 30, despite a flurry of last-ditch efforts to stay the execution.
Lawyers for the only woman on Georgia’s death row filed multiple appeals with high courts of both the United States and the state of Georgia. Gissendaner, 47 and a mother of three, was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. ET Sept. 29 for her role in the 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.
Prosecutors said Kelly Gissendaner conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. Owen, who took a plea deal and testified against Gissendaner, is serving life in prison and will become eligible for parole in 2022.
Around 11:30 p.m. Sept. 29, a third appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied, paving the way for the execution at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson to proceed.
Earlier Sept. 29 the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a clemency bid by Gissendaner’s attorneys. Even Pope Francis weighed in with an 11th-hour appeal.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that the pope, back in Rome after a six-day visit to the United States, sent a letter through a representative, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
“While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendander has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been expressed to your board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy,” Vigano wrote.
“In reaching its decision, the Board thoroughly reviewed all information and documents pertaining to the case, including the latest information presented by Gissendaner’s representatives,” a release sent from board chairman Terry Barnard said. No other explanation of the decision was given.
Later Sept. 29, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an application for stay of execution for Gissendaner.
Separately, a Fulton County judge denied a motion to halt the execution on grounds prison guards and administrators were not allowed to testify for clemency on Gissendaner’s behalf, according to The Journal-Constitution. The judge, however, allowed Gissendaner’s lawyers to appeal the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Gissendaner was the only woman on death row in Georgia and the first to be executed in the state in 70 years.